The claim: Votes were switched from Trump to Biden at the U.S. Embassy in Rome
At 3:41 a.m. on Jan. 7, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump — an act that marked the formal end of the presidential race, per USA TODAY.
Nonetheless, some internet users have continued to levy baseless claims about electoral fraud. This week, there were multiple videos posted to Facebook that alleged the vote count was changed in Rome.
"The theft of the election was orchestrated in the Rome Embassy, on the second floor of Via Veneto, by an employee, Stefano Serafini, foreign service officer of over 20 years," she said. "Stefano Serafini coordinated with a General Claudio Graziano."
"General Graziano is on the board of Leonardo — the defense contractor, Leonardo SPA," Strollo Zack continued. "Leonardo used their military satellite uplink to load the software and transfer it over to change the votes from Trump to Biden."
She also alleged that recent arrests of employees at Leonardo were related to the incident, and that the plan was orchestrated by former President Barack Obama, with help from former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the CIA.
Strollo Zack — a former lobbyist and current chair of Nations in Action, an organization established in 2017 and dedicated to advocating for families, according to its website — also made an appeal for funds to help her gather more evidence.
Conversation Controversy also shared a 13-minute video in which retired CIA station chief Bradley Johnson shares a similar version of the theory, connected to another debunked theory about election servers in Frankfurt, Germany.
"The U.S. elections were changed, the results were changed in those five or six key states, then all of those voting machines were hooked up to the internet," he said. "The internet then was used to download that information to these famous servers in Germany."
"So from there, those were uploaded and sent to Rome, and this is where this took place," he continued. "Once they created all the new data and manipulated all the data that was there, they sent these new numbers back up through this military satellite (...) and back down to all the machines here in the United States in those five or six states."
Johnson also claimed the time it took to upload the data to servers in Germany and Italy, manipulate it in Italy, and send it back to the U.S. was the source of the "sudden" uptick in votes for Biden in some states.
"ItalyGate" has quickly spread to around the internet. The three videos have amassed a combined 100,000 views and 7,000 shares on Facebook. An interview of Strollo Zack on America Can We Talk? on YouTube has also garnered over 400,000 views.
Conversation Controversy, Strollo Zack, American Can We Talk? have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.
Trump Train News Media told USA TODAY that they are not responsible for the content, since it was sent to the page to share.
Johnson told USA TODAY that "it’s clear from Italian newspapers this is going on," though he provided no proof.
No evidence of switched votes or electoral fraud, per multiple officials
The claims in both videos on "ItalyGate" are baseless. They are also easily contradicted by statements from multiple federal officials who have found no proof of electoral fraud.
On Nov. 12, a national coalition of election security officials announced that "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," per USA TODAY.
"All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary," they wrote. "This is an added benefit for security and resilience. This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors."
The coalition — which included the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Association of State Election Directors — also deemed the election "the most secure in American history."
On Dec. 1, then-Attorney General William Barr also told the Associated Press that the U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
An apparent uptick in votes for Biden in some states also wasn't proof of malfeasance.
USA TODAY, Reuters, PolitiFact and the Associated Press have debunked these claims. Most "spikes" were caused by late-counted absentee ballots, which tended to skew Democratic, or left-leaning counties that released results in large batches.
Aspects of ItalyGate easily disproven, details inaccurate
Some aspects of the claims in the videos are also easily disproven.
For example, the theory relies on the notion that votes were changed via satellite, software or the internet. But hand recounts of paper ballots have confirmed election results in at least one contested state and locality.
In Georgia, officials performed a weeklong statewide audit of paper ballots that affirmed a narrow victory for Biden, per USA TODAY. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the audit "reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results."
A hand tally of every vote cast for president in Antrim County, Michigan, also confirmed that its machine-tabulated results were correct, per the Detroit Free Press. Out of 15,962 votes cast, the hand recount showed a net gain of 12 votes for Trump, who won the county but lost the state.
Multiple details in the videos are also inaccurate.
Gen. Claudio Graziano is not listed as a member of the board of directors at Leonardo, per its website. Graziano serves as the chairman of the European Union Military Committee, per a website run by the European Union.
Leonardo and Graziano have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.
Employees of Leonardo were arrested on Dec. 5, but they were arrested for their alleged role in hacking the company's computers to steal sensitive information between 2015 and 2017, per Reuters.
And there was no raid of election servers in Germany. USA TODAY has previously debunked that theory, since the U.S. Army denied preforming such a raid, and the company whose purported servers were seized didn't even have servers in Germany.
Proponents of "ItalyGate" have also claimed that the news media in Italy has covered the scandal. However, the Italian news feeds of the the Associated Press, Reuters, and Sky News and contained no references to any of the claims, per Lead Stories.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, the claim that votes were switched from Trump to Biden at the U.S. Embassy in Rome is FALSE. There was no evidence of switched votes or electoral fraud in the presidential election, per multiple officials. "ItalyGate" relies on the notion that votes were changed via satellite, software, or the internet. But hand recounts of paper ballots have confirmed election results in at least one contested state and locality. And other details of the theory are inaccurate and easily debunked.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Nov. 12, "Election security officials: 'No evidence voting systems compromised'"
Associated Press, Dec. 1, "Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud"
Detroit Free Press, Dec. 17, "Antrim County hand tally affirms certified election results"
Leonardo Company, Accessed Jan. 8, Board of Directors: Composition
European Union External Action, Accessed Jan. 8, European Union Military Committee
Reuters, Dec. 5, "Italian police arrest two over hacking at defence group Leonardo"
USA TODAY, Nov. 17, "Fact check: Story of Army raid to seize election servers in Germany is false"
PolitiFact, Nov. 4, "No, these FiveThirtyEight graphs don’t prove voter fraud"
Associated Press, Nov. 4, "Graph shows thousands of ballots reported at once, overwhelmingly for Biden"
Lead Stories, Jan. 7, "Fact Check: 'Stefan Serafini,' An Alleged Foreign Service Officer, Did NOT Work With Barack Obama, Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi And Others To Rig The 2020 Election"
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here. https://offers.usatoday.com/specialoffer/
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: 'ItalyGate' claims of electoral fraud in Rome are baseless